Right to land

The text below is adapted from a proposal put forward during the ConstitutionUK project run by the LSE in 2015 to crowdsource a  new constitution for the UK, and will be substantially rewritten before this website goes live.

Giving everybody a fair share of land-market-value would be an effective right to land for people whose primary concern is finding somewhere to live. But the nature of the supply side of the market means that some people – the ones who would like to work their own plot of land – might still be denied the land they need, particularly in the early stages. Our answer to that is tied up with the nature of large landowners’ rights as discussed in Rights of Dominion.

Right of Subsistence

The reform outlined in our Land Currency page would allow people a fair share of land market-value but a market cannot guarantee the presence of willing sellers. For some people, however, the freedom to sustain themselves from their own bit of land would be more important than having a ‘fair’ share. Further reforms would therefore be needed to clarify the basis on which rural land is held, and the restrictions placed on it.

Our view is that a free society must allow people to live outside it as long as they can do so without impinging on others’ rights. From that perspective, the right to life which is recognised in human rights legislation implies a right to as much land as is needed to subsist. (In some circumstances – where the population of a society exceeds the carrying capacity of its land, for example – that might be impossible, but unsustainable circumstances are inherently unstable; they do not make good foundations for law and should be treated as exceptional. This piece, therefore, assumes that there is enough land to support our population, and it would need qualifying in circumstances where there is not.)

The problem with a wholly market-based system is that, even in a system which grants everyone a fair share of land-value, it cannot guarantee that the holders of rural land would be willing to sell some of it at a price the landless could afford. The solution we envisage is that people would have a right to surrender their ‘fair’ share of land market-value for a subsistence share of actual land.

That land would obviously have to come from someone who actually wants to keep it, so it’s necessary to clarify why the rights of the person losing it are subordinate. This needs some analysis of underlying principles and historical background.

 

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